For their “The Future of Work” series, BusinessWeek magazine goes inside Lucasfilm to see how the company manages multidisciplinary projects, accordion staffing and a freelance army with amazing results.
A few highlights from the article:
ILM has a permanent staff of about 700, but that can swell by as much as a quarter in the winter and spring, when effects work is being done on the summer blockbusters. Around 350 people at the Presidio worked with Farrar on Transformers, more than were actually on set with director Michael Bay. And John Knoll, visual effects supervisor on the third Pirates of the Caribbean, figures half of his team members were new to ILM. It’s a significant challenge to accommodate the constantly rising and falling army of freelancers, all of whom need IT training and HR orientation, a computer (or three), and a place to sit. The desks, tables, and chairs are all reconfigurable, so that one or four people can use an office. And—a simple but crucial point—each room has ample electrical outlets.
ILM and LucasArts have started to use a common production platform. That allows artists to share techniques between films and video games. The collaboration is already paying off for LucasArts. Haden Blackman, the project lead on the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Unleashed game, credits ILM’s expertise in lighting, makeup, and motion capture for making the characters’ faces more realistic. “It’s all based on technology they developed,” Blackman says. Now, Chau singles out the game company as the main source of growth for Lucasfilm.
Lucasfilm’s nerve center is the 10,000-square-foot “machine room.” From down the hallway, you can hear the hum of the many fans needed to keep the room cooled to 65F, lest the servers melt down. About 4,300 processors, as well as a network of 1,200 Linux desktop terminals, make up the “render farm,” a cluster of computing might that allows the complicated visual effects to be churned out. Knoll, an Oscar winner and co-inventor of the Photoshop photo-editing software, estimates it would take a run-of-the-mill PC about 1,000 years running full tilt to create the effects for the most recent Pirates movie.
Read the entire article here:
The Empire Strikes At Silos
(From the story, be sure to click on the link under the Yoda photo to get to the Reporter’s Journal slide show related to the story — with several additional photos).